News in Brief
A 35,000-year-old piece of carved bone found on Timor, an island between Java and Papua New Guinea, indicates that complex hunting weapons were manufactured much earlier than previously thought in Australasia.A team led by archaeologist Sue O’Connor of Australian National University in Canberra has unearthed, in a project that began in 2000, what it regards as the broken butt of a bone spear...
01/21/2014 - 17:16
When it comes to pain, what migraine-headache sufferers think about their pills’ identities matters nearly as much as whether or not those pills contain active medication, a new study suggests.Migraine meds labeled as placebos dull headache pain less effectively than the same pills identified either as the real deal or as possibly a genuine drug, say neuroscientist Rami Burstein of Harvard...
01/08/2014 - 14:15
Reviews & Previews
For centuries after Columbus, the flora and fauna of the New World remained a mystery to Europeans. But in the 1600s and 1700s, explorers began to visit and describe what were then considered remote corners of the Earth. Williams brings to life these naturalists who preceded Charles Darwin.While others on the ships mapped the blank spots on their charts, the naturalists scrambled onshore and...
02/08/2014 - 10:08
History of Science
Reviews & Previews
Almost nothing in nature is so rare as a mass extinction. On only five occasions in Earth’s long history has a large fraction of the planet’s biodiversity disappeared in a geological instant. But, journalist Kolbert reminds us in her new book, we are well on our way to making it six.A lesser writer tackling this subject might offer up a dreary list of dead and dying species; Kolbert instead tells...
02/11/2014 - 09:03
Earth, History of Science
A remarkably complete, roughly 1.8-million-year-old fossil skull with a surprising set of features adds key evidence to the controversial idea that early members of the Homo genus evolved as one species living in both western Asia and Africa, scientists say.The new find, and the remains of four other skulls previously unearthed at a site called Dmanisi, in the nation of Georgia, belonged...
10/17/2013 - 14:04
When I started to get out and about with Baby V, I occasionally experienced a strange phenomenon. Women would approach and coo some pleasant little noises. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, these strangers would lean in close and ask to smell my baby.I’m the first to admit that this sounds creepy. Truth be told, it is a little creepy. But now I completely get it. The joy...
10/04/2013 - 12:49
Human nature has a dark and violent side. And that means you too, ladies. A new set of studies suggests it’s a Mean Girls world out there, and aggressive competition may be rooted deep in evolution.We humans are fascinated by women willing to duke it out. Witness Jerry Springer’s career. We love to hate women who go ballistic and throw chairs at female rivals. But we also tend to...
10/31/2013 - 13:28
Back off, Big Bad Wolf. The Ravenous Data Cruncher has cornered “Little Red Riding Hood,” brandishing a statistical exposé of the fictional girl’s hazy past.In computer analyses that track the evolution of 58 documented folktales, anthropologist Jamshid Tehrani of Durham University in England finds that related versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” spread from a European origin over at least the...
11/22/2013 - 13:47
A new nonprofit called OpenBiome is hoping to do for fecal transplants what blood banks have done for transfusions. It’s a kind of Brown Cross.And it’s an idea whose time has come. Recent trials testing transplants of fecal microbes from the healthy to the sick have been so promising that people are attempting dangerous do-it-yourself fecal transplants by enema...
02/12/2014 - 17:28
Biomedicine, Clinical Trials, Science & Society
Pop music hit maker Clive Davis knows a catchy song when he hears one. Now an app aims to define that elusive quality more concretely.Designed by computer and cognitive scientists at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Hooked! asks citizen scientists to help uncover the mystery ingredients of...
02/19/2014 - 17:20
Psychology, Technology, Science & Society